July 19, 2024

Brighton Journal

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Google’s mysterious gadget equipped with a 60GHz Soli radar has just passed the FCC.

Google’s mysterious gadget equipped with a 60GHz Soli radar has just passed the FCC.

We’ve been waiting for years for Google’s little radar to fulfill its potential. Now, it looks like the company is at least giving Soli another chance. According to filings At the FCC, Google now has a mysterious “wireless device” that features 60GHz short-range radar technology — as well as 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and a “baseboard” of sorts.

What could this device be? One Guess early learners It’s just a new Nest Thermostat, which might make sense. The FCC filings do not show that this device contains any other radios beyond 2.4 GHz and 60 GHz; The 2020 Nest Thermostat was similarly light on radios, but it used Soli radar to automatically detect when you’re in front of the thermostat and illuminate the display hidden invisibly behind the mirror. It would also make sense for the thermostat to have a “base plate,” of course, whether it be wall-mountable or perhaps even position.

The new device has a “base plate”.
Image: Federal Communications Commission

Google’s 2021 Nest Hub update, which added Soli sleep-tracking radar, seems less likely — the smart home hub will almost certainly feature low-power radio technology like Thread or Zigbee for controlling other smart home gadgets, no mention of either here. But in 2024, I honestly expect any smart home gadget from Google to have Thread, so will it really be a thermostat, smoke alarm, or that kind of gadget?

It seems to be a coherent thing, since there’s no mention of batteries — not even the pair of AAA batteries that appeared in the Nest Thermostat’s 2020 FCC filing. Today’s filing shows that the new mystery gadget has been tested either plugged into AC power (via “Setup Box”) or connected to a USB cable connected to a laptop. (Early nest thermostats It technically has USB ports Which can be used for shipping.)

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I have a hard time imagining that a smart speaker could only have 2.4GHz 802.11n Wi-Fi, since even Google’s cheapest Nest Mini speakers support the 5GHz band as well.

Could this be the leaked Pixel Watch 3? One of Google’s first tech demos was for Soli in a smartwatch, and Google watches don’t use the 5GHz band; 2.4GHz, Bluetooth, and Soli will be enough for the Wi-Fi-only variant of the watch, and the “base plate” can serve as a charger. But no, Google claims that this device would typically be at least 20cm away from the person and a radiation test was not performed for this reason:

It is not a device you wear or carry.
Image: Federal Communications Commission

This is similar to what was said about the Nest Thermostat in 2020: “Under normal use conditions, the antenna of this product is at least 20 cm away from the user’s body. Therefore, this device is classified as a mobile device.

Do any FCC investigators have a better idea? For now, I think it’s still a mystery.